About this object

History of use

The Makonde were a matriarchal, agricultural society. Traditionally, it is thought, the sculpture of the Makonde was restricted to ceremonial and ritual goods. Shetani spirits or creatures, now seen in contemporary Makonde sculpture, were probably unknown before the advent of commercial art production in the mid-1950's. Tales of encounters with these rarely seen spirits or creatures were part of Makonde mythology and folklore and may have served as artistic inspiration for the pieces.

Cultural context

Commercial art.

Iconographic meaning

Chameleons were often portrayed as magician's familiars. Calabashes were used in conjunction with hallucinogenic drugs.

Physical description

Shallowly carved wooden panel or plaque. Nine contiguous figures of three humans face-to-face with animals. One is with a human head and a calabash in the hand. Human figures at each end are pressing into the back of the adjacent figures. Chameleon(?) on the extreme left. Background incised in a scale-like pattern.